Stop Watch

De­vel­op­ment of aero­dy­nam­ics in Motogp con­tin­ues, de­spite rule changes

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PHOTO BY GOLD & GOOSE

New Motogp rules for this year ban the winglets used by most teams over the last sev­eral sea­sons. The change was based largely on safety is­sues, the ma­jor con­cern be­ing that rid­ers could be in­jured by the sharp wings in a crash. The new reg­u­la­tion pro­hibits “de­vices or shapes pro­trud­ing from the fair­ing or body­work and not in­te­grated into the body stream­lin­ing… that may pro­vide an aero­dy­namic ef­fect.”

As we saw at the Sepang test in Fe­bru­ary, that has not stopped the fac­to­ries con­tin­u­ing with aero­dy­namic de­vel­op­ment. Yamaha sampled a new fair­ing, which es­sen­tially has the wings in­te­grated in­side the fair­ing, to meet the let­ter of the law if not the spirit. The other fac­to­ries are likely to fol­low, though most are sure to be keep­ing their new fair­ings un­der wraps un­til later tests or even the first race at Qatar. An ad­di­tional rule lim­its de­vel­op­ment to just one new fair­ing de­sign per rider dur­ing the sea­son, so the man­u­fac­tur­ers are un­der­stand­ably keep­ing things close to the vest as long as they can.

One key is­sue with mo­tor­cy­cle aero­dy­nam­ics is that down­force typ­i­cally can­not be used to add cor­ner­ing grip as it does in a car. Down­force gen­er­ated by a wing will tran­si­tion to lat­eral force as the bike leans, and any gains in grip are off­set by the in­creased lat­eral force. Other Motogp rules for body­work pro­hibit any mov­able pieces that might be used to over­come this ef­fect, such as a wing that ro­tates as the bike leans so as to con­stantly pro­vide down­force.

A very in­ter­est­ing mas­ter the­sis writ­ten in 2012 by Vo­jtech Sed­lak at the KTH Royal In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy in Stock­holm, ti­tled “Mo­tor­cy­cle Cor­ner­ing Im­prove­ment: An Aero­dy­nam­i­cal Ap­proach Based on Flow In­ter­fer­ence,” fo­cuses on ex­actly this is­sue and ways that fixed wings could be used to pro­vide down­force with­out the re­sul­tant lat­eral force. One of three fi­nal con­cepts pre­sented in the pa­per is al­most ex­actly what the Du­cati Des­mosedici used in 2016, with two down­ward- slop­ing wings on ei­ther side of the fair­ing. Sed­lak’s the­o­ret­i­cal eval­u­a­tion de­scribes how, in a turn, the rider’s in­side knee would block air­flow over the in­side, now more ver­ti­cal wings, re­duc­ing lat­eral force from that side’s wings. But the out­side wings would not be shrouded by the rider’s knee and at a more hor­i­zon­tal an­gle to pro­vide down­force.

As has been the case since dust­bin fair­ings were banned and the FIM in­tro­duced stream­lin­ing rules, the man­u­fac­tur­ers will no doubt con­tinue to cre­ate sim­i­lar, in­no­va­tive so­lu­tions as Motogp at­tempts to fur­ther re­strict aero­dy­namic de­vel­op­ment. Du­cati seems to be lead­ing the charge in this area, with the Des­mosedici hav­ing the most elab­o­rate wings of all the bikes last year.

Du­cati is also leav­ing no stone un­turned as far as de­vel­op­ment in other ar­eas is con­cerned, as a re­cent patent ap­pli­ca­tion has re­vealed. As­signed to Du­cati and pub­lished ear­lier this year, the patent de­scribes a mech­a­nism that, in a wheelie sit­u­a­tion, chokes part of the ex­haust out­let to pro­vide thrust from the gases leav­ing the pipe. If the out­let is po­si­tioned and aimed a cer­tain way, this thrust can be used to ac­cel­er­ate the bike and at the same time help to off­set the wheelie. In this man­ner, more ac­cel­er­a­tion is pos­si­ble with less chance of a wheelie. It cer­tainly seems out­landish, yet the patent ap­pli­ca­tion is very de­tailed and spe­cific in terms of the mech­a­nism and the de­sired ef­fect.

Per­haps one side ben­e­fit of the re­cent switch to spec elec­tron­ics is that the man­u­fac­tur­ers must turn their at­ten­tion else­where, ar­eas that fans and view­ers can ac­tu­ally see new ideas and tech­nolo­gies as they are de­vel­oped, rather than those hid­den in­side black boxes. The Motogp sea­son kicks off March 26 in Qatar this year. There we will see how all the man­u­fac­tur­ers have re­sponded to the new re­stric­tions on wings— and maybe even a jet- as­sisted Des­mosedici. SR

BY AN­DREW TREVITT Yamaha tried out this rules- com­pli­ant fair­ing at the Sepang Motogp test to re­place the winglets used on the M1 last year.

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